It is one of those few days during which Pakistan has something to be happy about. Any little gain in the war on terror is a step in the right direction, but the recovery of Awais Ali Shah is more than that; because it means that a family can be reunited with their son, and the Chief Justice of Sindh will have peace of mind, and the judiciary is no longer compromised.

The armed forces must be congratulated for the successful recovery of Awais Ali Shah, especially after Sindh police and government seemed almost completely clueless about how to go about securing his return. And that brings us to the major problem, the fact that the civil security forces seem completely at sea when it comes to cracking down on terror. Successful encounters with terrorists are only a means of keeping terror momentarily at bay. And that too, not entirely. No police from any province has a handle on an effective counter-terrorism policy. The armed forces cannot keep putting out the fires that have been left in place by provincial governments. It can be argued that the kidnappings are evidence of failure of security mechanisms left in city centres by the governments.

A country in a state of war can no longer afford to make such mistakes. The kidnapping of Awais Ali Shah was an act of terror targeted against the judiciary, and other circles of power, reminding us that no one, no matter how powerful is safe from the hands of the terrorists. We must fight to change this notion, and in fact, make the militants feel unsafe instead. The presence of militants in major cities is an irrefutable conclusion, and that is made all the more convincing by the fact that Awais was recovered all the way in D.I Khan, travelling from Karachi. The tactic of covering him in a burqa is nothing new either.

If the tactics from the other side are unchanging, should it not become easier over time to overcome them? Now that Awais Ali has returned home safe and sound, the focus should become on developing preventive mechanisms in case something like this happens again. Karachi is a big city, and closing it down is no easy task, but the fact that the state failed to do so immediately after the kidnapping tells us why this affair was prolonged for as long as it was. In the future, we must aim to do even better.